Sunday, September 29, 2013

Food During the Renaissance Period

Many of the foods we eat today were common during the Renaissance period. Fruits and vegetables, meats, sauces, pastas, pastries and breads, all were part of daily life from 1450 to 1600. There were important differences though in the preservation and preparation of foods, and how they were served.


    During the Renaissance, food reflected social class. The middle class did not have access to meat on a daily basis, and their breads were made from dark grains such as barley and rye, rather than the more costly wheat. The wealthy and nobility of the era not only ate more meat and other foods, but also enjoyed a higher quality of food. When the rich were done with their meals, the sauce-soaked bread often was given to the poor.


    People needed to preserve foods without the benefit of refrigeration. Animals slaughtered in the fall for their meat had to be salted, a process that made the meat overly salty to the taste. Fruits were dried and vegetables kept in cool cellars. Breads were wrapped in linens to keep in the moisture.
    With farm animals a part of daily life, fresh milk was available, and used for making cheese. Bread and cheese were a more common fare than meat and vegetables for the middle class, as cheese would last some time, and bread could be made from stored grains.


    The saltiness of preserved meats led to a need for seasonings. What wasn't grown locally was imported. Spices from the east were a popular and expensive part of the nobilities' cuisine, as these masked the salty, briny taste of beef, pork, poultry and lamb.
    Preserved meats were boiled before they were cooked, and served in sauces or stews, and baked into pies. The upper echelons of society had access to fresh meat, though, and the animals were slaughtered shortly before they were to be served.


    Salads of the Renaissance era were served after the meat course, and consisted of cooked vegetables and the less tender cuts of meat such as brain or liver. Along with salads, eggs were served. These might be boiled and sliced, or fried.
    Soups were considered a luxury during the Renaissance. Some were sweetened with sugar, others made from lean meats and eggs. Soups more closely resembled what might be considered as stews in terms of consistency in modern cuisines.


    Desserts, though, held the place of honor as the treat at the end of the meal. Gingerbread, cakes, pastries and honeyed fruits were common fare for the upper classes, while the middle classes may have enjoyed such sweets only on special occasions.


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